Sport & Exercise

Nutrition for tendons and ligaments

The All Blacks perform the Haka during the All Blacks v Australia Semi Final match of the 2011 IRB Rugby World Cup. Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand. Sunday 16 October 2011. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/

Damage to tendons and ligaments can affect us at any age.

However the recent world cup highlighted how easily athletes can be immobilised when these vital system fail.

The Rugby Facts

Research surrounding rugby injuries reveal that sprain and ligament injuries are the most common. The tackle (particularly side tackles) are the most common phase of play responsible for injury followed by the ruck. With the incidence of injury leading to loss of match play around 10.8 per 1000 player hours.

Around 30% of injury occurs in training the remainder in game play and more injuries occur at the start than at the end of the season.  As players age the injuries become more severe because of the increased physical weight of the player. They also become more aggressive and competitive and engage in faster bouts of play as they develop experience and skill.

Forwards are injured statistically more often than backs because of their greater body mass index. Backs tend to suffer more shoulder and arm injuries than other members of the team and all injuries have been improved by players wearing mouth guards and protective head gear.

Can Sports Nutrition Help?

Obviously nutrients can’t replace the hardware of protective clothing. However maintaining a steady stream of energy and hydration is important at every stage of play to enable players to physically manoeuvre skillfully and to mentally engage tactically in the game.

A Sports Dietitian can calculate an athletes energy needs for baseline (daily living) and then offer specific advice on the amounts and timing of meals and snacks to coincide with the peak performance that is required during training and competition. For personal information contact us now.

Nutrition for tendons and ligaments

Soft tissue injuries occur in 50% of rugby injuries with musculo-tendon strains and tears particularly of the lower limbs and thighs being the most common.

The following nutrients have been sited as improving ligament and tendon health:

  • Vitamin C generates collagen to help keep tendons strong. Good food sources include green peppers, watermelon, citrus fruit and all raw fruits and vegetables.
  • Protein and Calcium also help tendon strength and are found in foods such as tofu, milk, cheese, red, white and pinto beans.
  • Vitamin E reduces inflammation and may help to reduce tendenitis and is found in wheat germ, fatty fish (e.g.salmon and tuna) nuts, olive oil and eggs.
  • B group Vitamins help to maintain tendon reflexes and are found in eggs, beef, chicken, fish and shellfish.
  • Vitamin A is important for cell division, collagen renewal, tissue repair and vision. This vitamin increases the elasticity of collagen, maintaining strength of tendons and ligaments. Good food sources include eggs, fatty fish, yellow vegetables and margarine.
  • Glucosamine is made in the body from glucose and the amino acid glutamine and is important for ligament health. Good food sources include raw parsley and spinach.
  • Chrondroitin is naturally occurring in the body and a major component of cartilage.
  • Vitamin D helps build cartilage and aids calcium absorption to strengthen bone. Some does come from sunlight the rest from fatty foods such as salmon, margarine, oysters, fortified cereals and milk.

It is important to plan to maintain energy during all forms of sporting endeavour as fatigue leads to errors and injury.

For individual help with your own game plan contact us now for an appointment.

About the author View all

Lea Stening

Lea is one of New Zealand’s leading paediatric dietitians and also specialises in Sports Nutrition. She has specialised in Paediatric Nutrition for 31 years and in 1985 was the first paediatric dietitian to enter private practice in New Zealand. Lea helps families through her private consultations, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles as well as television and radio interviews. Read more »

View all posts by Lea Stening »


Leave a Reply

Showing 2 comments

  1. Peter Mellner

    Hello Mrs. Lea, about the list of nutrients that improve ligaments and tendons health, what is your opinion about how much should an average athlete should consider as for daily intakes?

    » Reply
    • Hi Peter,
      All nutrient needs are age and activity dependent. The fastest way to find out your own nutrient needs is to have a nutritional analysis of your diet to check on your current nutritional status and then, taking into account your age and level of activity recommendations can then be made.

      » Reply

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